Ravens' equipment manager Carroll is unsung hero

WESTMINSTER -- Confronted with details ranging from tailoring pants large enough to fit gigantic linemen, providing enough cleats for an All-Pro middle linebacker who tosses new pairs at halftime and remebering which athletes are sponsored by Nike or Reebok, it's no wonder that Ed Carroll has lost a lot of hair.

Yet, the Baltimore Ravens' bespectacled, genial equipment manager is almost always smiling as he presides over the inner sanctum of the football team.

His secret to not getting stressed out by the idiosyncrasies of the equipment room as he enters his 18th season in the NFL? Having a sense of humor, a strong work ethic and a penchant for planning ahead and compartmentalizing everything from blocking sleds, mouthpieces and toiletries in their proper place.

"It would be chaos if we didn't keep everything organized," said Carroll, a Westminster resident who lives a few blocks from the McDaniel College campus. "I'm not very smart, so I have to be organized. The biggest thing for me is to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.

"You have to expect the unexpected to happen. Equipment breaks, jerseys get torn, you had better have extras of everything because you'll need it."

Especially for linebacker Ray Lewis, who goes through nearly 75 pairs of cleats per season, including the ones he sheds at halftime during games. Lewis is the exception, though.

"Some guys don't want to change their shoes at all," Carroll said. "You give them a pair of shoes, they break them in and they won't change them for the entire year.

"That's not good, especially with the money they're paying these guys, because the shoes start breaking down and it's easy to turn an ankle."

Carroll orders size 16 cleats for massive offensive tackles Jonathan Ogden (6-foot-9, 340 pounds) and Orlando Brown (6-7, 360 pounds). He has a size 18 available just in case general manager Ozzie Newsome signs an even larger behemoth.

"This job is about adapting fast to changes," Carroll said.  "Everything the players and coaches wear is licensed by NFL Properties. Whether it's a glove, cleat or helmet, brand integrity is maintained as players are fined by the league if they don't wear licensed material."

"The league is very strict about this," said Carroll. "There's a lot of money involved."

The clothing aspect of the NFL business has advanced to the point where Carroll, owner Steve Bisciotti and team president Dick Cass are already being asked to approve uniform styles and colors for the 2006 campaign.

It comes in handy that Carroll's wife is an expert at sewing damaged uniforms.

For Carroll and his staff, training camp at McDaniel College is one of their most challenging times of the year.  The locker room is overloaded with rookies and free agent hopefuls, most of whom won't make the 53-man regular-season roster.

Until Aug. 19 when camp breaks, the Ravens are sharing space again with the Green Terror football team, squeezing into the cramped Gill Center.

"That works out great with Ken Nunnelee, the McDaniel equipment manager," Carroll said. "I always tell him, 'We're your guests and this is your locker room and equipment room.'"

In late July, the team transplanted thousands of pounds of equipment, including helmets, shoulder pads, goalposts and blocking dummies, to Westminster from its spacious, $31 million Owings Mills training complex.

"This is our 10th training camp, so we've got it down pretty well by now," Carroll said. "I try to only bring necessary things with it only being a half-hour away. Back in 1996, we definitely overpacked."

Carroll's boiled-down job description: supplying everything the players and coaches need or might need.

Whatever it is, Carroll takes care of his guys. That includes everything from jockstraps, chewing gum, shaving cream, razors and deodorant.

Over the years, Carroll's office has doubled as a confessional/hangout for players who trust his sage advice. They know their gripes about life or football won't be repeated. Not coincidentally, Carroll rarely has to worry about dealing with a moody millionaire.

"They're still big kids and there's a lot of mutual respect," Carroll said. "One thing I really respect about Ozzie is he brings in quality guys. They make my job a lot easier and a lot more fun."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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